Privacy advocates are raising concerns over a City of Parksville program that offers rebates for security cameras, claiming it could be intrusive to residents and make them feel like they’re constantly being watched.
Parksville council passed a motion to implement the security camera rebate program at a June council meeting in an effort to curb crime in the community. The program outline states that for a limited time the city is offering a maximum of one rebate for the owner of a residence who installs a security camera on the exterior of their property and a maximum of one rebate for a business which installs a security camera at their business.
Council has approved the rebate program with $2,500 allocated in 2019 and another $5,000 available in 2020. The rebate is up to a maximum of $100 per application for cameras purchased and installed after July 2, 2019, and before available funds for the current year are used.
Sara Neuert, executive director with the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, said that although her aim is not to deter the City of Parksville in trying to minimize crime, her biggest concern is whether they’ve done a privacy risk assessment in conjunction with the rebate program.
“I read some of the (city’s) criteria for [the rebate program] and [security cameras] have to be pointed out, which means it would be pointed maybe to a neighbour’s yard,” Neuert said. “We do get these calls on a regular basis about neighbours being intrusive to their neighbour’s activities which makes them feel like they’re constantly being watched. It makes you feel just as vulnerable as if you were to get robbed.”
Neuert believes it’s essential for Parksville council to do their “due diligence” and conduct a privacy impact assessment along with the program.
“I understand where [council] are coming from… trying to deter theft and things like that, but as much as people are concerned about that, I think they’re also concerned about somebody watching them constantly, or feeling like they’re being watched constantly,” Neuert said. “Everyone has the right to their own privacy within their own home and their own area.”
Neuert added that the expectation of privacy in public differs from expecting privacy on your own property.
“In public it’s one thing but if you’re offering this to residents to have cameras, it’s not all public,” she said. “What I thought of first and foremost is this rebate is being offered to residents and I thought this could change the neighbourhood relationships.”
Deb Tardiff, communications manager with the City of Parksville, said the city has received input from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and are now reviewing their comments for possible adjustments to the security camera rebate program.
“The program is still being offered by the city,” Tardiff said.